What is a Confucian Jew?
November 2, 2008 8:02 PM   Subscribe

What is a Confucian Jew?

From the author bio in Lonely Planet's Central Asia Phrasebook: "In his teens, [Justin Jon Rudelson] became part of an extended Chinese family, went native and set out to become a Confucian Jew, a journey that lead him to study Mandarin and eventually 20 other languages including Uyghur, Uzbek, Russian, Japanese and Hebrew."

Is there a tradition behind this strange amalgam, or might it be an original creation of Rudelson's?
posted by Great Insect Task Force Comet Ranger to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
As far as I know (and as far as some quick googling can tell me), it seems to be the latter. I've never heard of a Confucian Jew, and I like to think I'm reasonably well-informed about the various branches of the faith I was raised in.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2008

This might be a catch-all phrase referring to the very ancient jewish communities that sprung up around the spice trade routes through central asia into china.
posted by Kifer85 at 8:39 PM on November 2, 2008

Sounds to be that he's just saying that Justin Jon Rudelson, who was born a Jew, set out to adapt to the ways of the Confucians and "go native," while presumably maintaining his original faith too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:14 PM on November 2, 2008

I'm sure drjimmy11 is right about this particular fellow, but you might be interested in the most famous story of a pre-modern Jewish community in China, that of Kaifeng.
posted by Abiezer at 9:24 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Obviously not the same, thing, but maybe related is the idea of the JewBu, or Buddist Jew. So, there's some precedent here for Eastern/Hebrew meshing.
posted by Skwirl at 9:29 PM on November 2, 2008

It is exotic word bullshit meant to make the author sound smart and transitively make his book more interesting to the potential buyer.

Confucianism and Judaism are completely different, and I HIGHLY doubt that the author knew anything about Confucianism beyond the most basic superficial aspects and even less practiced it.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:42 PM on November 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

And for another famous problem of combining Abrahamic faith with Confucian practice, there was the Jesuit's rites controversy.
posted by Abiezer at 10:03 PM on November 2, 2008

I'd modify what Abiezer said just a fraction - It sounds to me as if Rudelson set out to become a Confucian while maintaining not his Jewish faith, but his Jewish identity. So in his author bio (and possibly nowhere else, unless he's giving a similarly truncated and tongue-in-cheek self-introduction elsewhere) he now wryly refers to himself as a 'Confucian Jew'. In other words, it's a semi-joke based on the idea that 'a Jew is always a Jew' - that it's a cultural and ethnic identity that, unlike a faith, cannot be turned away from. Of course, the problem with this would be that Confucian religious practice is itself very heavily embedded in the cultural and social. But I'm not sure I would take the self-description too seriously.
posted by Acheman at 2:24 AM on November 3, 2008

Agree with drjimmy11. To me it seems like an attempt at humor as well, because it is something that sounds unlikely and because it was during the guy's teens.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:23 AM on November 3, 2008

Here is another combination of Abrahamic faith and Confucian practice, this time in post-modern China.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:40 AM on November 3, 2008

(Yeah, it wasdrjimmy11 I was basically agreeing with there, not Abiezer; sorry.)
posted by Acheman at 7:21 AM on November 3, 2008

Actually, as someone with a cultural background of Confucian practice (blended with a lot of other stuff), this sounds perfectly plausible.

Confucianism is a philosophy of social and ethical practice. It's about the proper role of families, government, and daily behavior. It doesn't address the afterlife, the spiritual realm, or the supernatural.

Judaism also has a lot to say about social and ethical practice, and it has a strong element of the metaphysical and supernatural. If you can reconcile the matters of mundane practice between the two philosophies, you could totally be a Confucian Jew.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:29 AM on November 3, 2008

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